In a new health programme, patients with cardiovascular disease (or those at risk of developing it) will be rewarded for adopting a healthy lifestyle. They will be able to earn points by quitting smoking, watching their weight, attending classes at a gym or buying healthy food, for instance. The points they earn can be redeemed for discounts on products at major retailers or day trips.
The programme will be developed and rolled out nationwide by the BENEFIT consortium, in which many organisations and companies work together. It will be funded by a grant of €2.5 million from the Dutch Heart Foundation and The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development, ZonMw. The programme will be coordinated by the Health, Medical and Neuropsychology Unit (Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences) at Leiden University, the Cardiology Department, Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC), and eHealth company Vital 10.
Everyone can benefit from leading a healthy lifestyle. Following a heart attack, most patients are keen to adopt a healthier lifestyle, but find it difficult to keep up the momentum once their period of rehabilitation and supervision is over. The BENEFIT programme is intended to provide people with an extra incentive to keep up their healthy lifestyle, alongside normal rehabilitation and supervision by their family doctor.
The switch from the rehabilitation centre to the home environment is difficult, and patients often slip back into old habits.Professor Andrea Evers, health psychologist of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Leiden University
Encouragement, not compulsion
BENEFIT combines individual coaching (online or face-to-face) with a “loyalty” discount scheme. Participants can use their computer to access a personal health portal, where they can find information about the status of their lifestyle and health. For example, they can use apps on their mobile phone to see how active they have been, what their blood pressure is, and how much they weigh. Points can be earned by walking a certain number of steps, by not smoking, by buying healthy food items, and, if necessary, by regularly monitoring their weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and/or cholesterol levels. “Our aim is to reward sustainable healthy behaviour and make it as attractive as possible,” explains Dr. Veronica Janssen, medical psychologist at LUMC’s Cardiology Department. “For example, in the health game, participants can earn extra points by taking on specific challenges (e.g., endurance walks or a month-long class at a gym). Points can also be earned by involving friends and family in leading a healthy lifestyle.” Participants can redeem the points for discounts on day trips and certain products from major retail chains.
An independent committee of users will assess whether the products for which participants can earn discounts fit within a healthy lifestyle. “We also hope to be able to offer participants a discount on their health insurance premium, for instance,” says Evers. Of course, the data collected on the participants will remain well protected, so that they cannot be abused.
Initially, healthcare providers will offer BENEFIT to patients who have heart disease or who are at risk of getting it. Ultimately, the programme will be rolled out nationwide, so that anyone who is interested can take part. “The BENEFIT consortium deliberately chose a public-private construction, as being a responsible and stimulating way of bridging the gap between healthcare and commerce,” says cardiologist Dr. Roderik Kraaijenhagen (CEO of Vital 10). “Working in close cooperation, we can create a new ecosystem and financing model, one that promotes healthy living and in which the healthcare system, businesses and individuals can all benefit.” The consortium is expected to be able to operate without external funding within five years.
Partners in the BENEFIT consortium include the following:
- Prof. dr. Andrea Evers, Professor and Head of the Health, Medical and Neuropsychology Unit, Leiden University, Medical Delta eHealth Institute
- Dr. Roderick Kraaijenhagen, Cardiologist and CEO of Vital 10
- Dr. Veronica Janssen, Psychologist at the Heart Lung Center, Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) and Assistant Professor, Department of Health, Medical and Neuropsychology, Leiden University
- Prof. dr. Douwe Atsma, Cardiologist, Heart Lung Center, LUMC
- Prof. dr. Lisette van Gemert-Pains, Professor of Persuasive Health Technology, Center for eHealth & Wellbeing, University of Twente
- Prof. dr. Wilma Scholte op Reimer, Professor of Complex Healthcare, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
- Roy Milde, BSc, Senior IT Consultant, Simac
- Dr. Hareld Kemps, Cardiologist, Maxima Medical Center, Eindhoven/Veldhoven
- Prof dr. Niels Chavannes, Medical Delta eHealth Institute, LUMC
- Dr. Heleen den Hertog, Neurologist, Medical Spectrum Twente, Erasmus Medical Center
- Prof. dr. Ron Peters, Cardiologist, Academic Medical Center (AMC), Amsterdam
- Michaël Bas, CEO of Ranj Serious Games
- Prof. dr. Arno Hoes, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology & Primary Care Medicine, Head of Division, Julius Centrum, University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht
- Dr. Rolf Oosterloo, Leiden University
- Inge van den Broek, Policymaker, Hart & Vaat (Heart Patients’ Association)
- Bas Geerdes, Senior Consultant, Achmea Health Insurance